In light of recent media surrounding the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center (NBSTCC), the board of directors wants to publish a statement to help update our donors and supporters on recent events.
The NBSTCC has worked closely with the TDC and Santa Rosa County successfully for several years, which is why we were surprised by Commissioner Rob Williamson’s sudden decision to suspend funding. Additionally, we’re taken aback by statements that claim we have been uncooperative as we have routinely met and been in communication with Commissioner Rob Williamson and his office, and supplied all information that is relevant to the TDC and District 4 funding.
To clarify the process, when the NBSTCC is awarded TDC and/or District 4 funds, these funds are kept in the county’s possession. In order to utilize the funds, the NBSTCC does the work, reviews and approves invoices and then submits invoices to the Santa Rosa County Finance Department for final approval and payment. NBSTCC has never paid an invoice related to any county funding program, they are paid by the county and necessary financial records are maintained at the county level and not by NBSTCC, as inferred by Rob Williamson. Therefore, the financial records Rob Williamson references at commission meetings are all generated by the county and reside within the SRC Office of Management and Budget. The funds can only be used for specific phases of the construction project.
All of the NBSTCC grant accounts are in good standing and invoices are paid-in-full, and there are still available funds which have not been used yet. These are the funds being “suspended” by Commissioner Rob Williamson. The work underway now at the center is all being paid for privately and this action has no bearing on our being able to complete the project. We will continue to work in cooperation with Commissioner Rob Williamson and his office as we are hopeful to maintain a positive working relationship.
However, this has not halted work or support for the center. We have been overwhelmed by the number of emails, phone calls and text messages in regard to recent statements. Volunteers were out in force Friday working on the Seamore Store and work continues on-schedule to complete the Interpretative Area, all of which is being funded privately. We frequently post construction updates and pictures of the transformation the center is undergoing and that is a direct result of volunteers, private donors and public support.
For those of you who are just getting introduced to the NBSTCC, we are a nonprofit organization, overseen by a volunteer board of directors and powered by volunteers. Our volunteers are community leaders and business owners; they work full-time jobs and take care of their families on top of working to build the NBSTCC. Our progress has been slower than we had initially hoped. Like any large construction project, surprises will happen and the plan must remain fluid. But it has honestly yielded a more beautiful and in-depth center than we had ever hoped for!
We’ve been honored to work with many local companies, many who have donated their time, and reduced their costs and fit us into their already demanding schedules; which at times has meant a period of downtime at the center.
In December 2014, NBSTCC was blessed with a private donation to fund the exhibits in the Interpretative Area. This donation came at a critical time when NBSTCC was in desperate need to secure funding for the exhibits. With the expertise of Wilderness Graphics, the money has more than enhanced the interior and will bring exhibits that are both superior and unique. While we are very close to finishing, publishing a grand opening date is still challenging as there are a lot of final steps that involve outside organizations, like the State of Florida and the final permitting phase. The NBSTCC has been extremely fortunate to have the support of the FWC, who has worked in collaboration with us and Wilderness Graphics to build amazing educational exhibits for the new Interpretative Area. As we continue to move through the process we will continue to share our progress both on our Facebook page and on our website. You can trust that we will give all our turtle fans plenty of time to plan for our grand opening activities as we are eager to introduce our residential sea turtle to his or her new family.
Board of Directors, Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center